Meet the Author: Paul Russell

Paul’s top writing tip: Be honest. Your stories are yours alone, find what it is that makes you unique and use that to make your stories the same.

Paul Russell is a primary teacher, artist, playwright and children’s author with five previous titles including Grandma Forgets, which made the CBCA list of notable picture books in 2018.  He is passionate about the place of imagination and daydreaming in children’s learning. He has a daughter who would rather be a princess or a dragon than a regular school student and he is grateful to teachers who embrace this in her education.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I can’t help it. When I was younger I always claimed it was the only way I could get to sleep, if I didn’t write stories down they would keep me awake all night playing in my mind.

I think I have finally accepted now that I am just never going to fully grow up. I still have the imagination of an eight-year-old child and still see the world for what it could be, might be or will never be, making stories such an important part of my life.

How has your childhood influenced you as a children’s author? Every day and in every way. I had a joyous childhood filled with great adventures and the freedom to play. We never had a lot of money but my parents always had time for me. I had school holidays with notepads filled with stories, games and visits to local libraries.

I still see one of the greatest joys of parenthood is being able to have a second childhood through my own children.

You teach in a primary school. How much inspiration do you draw from your students? Do you test your early drafts on them? I hate coming up with character names and often steal student names, especially in first drafts but I don’t always find more inspiration in them than anywhere else. I think as an author you have to always be on the lookout for ideas. Sometimes they come in a student but other times it is an odd fact, a piece of rubbish on the side of the road or a comment a passerby says (or should have said). Inspiration is weird, it is the noting down when inspired that is important because you will never be inspired the same way twice and it is very easy to dismiss and too easy to forget.

I’ve tried running drafts past students but found they were always reluctant to be brutally honest, which is often what drafts need. My first novel I lied and told a student that one of my friends wrote it and I didn’t like it, to try to get some better feedback. Didn’t help, she still loved it.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? When you think you have something amazing but you can’t convince anyone to even read it. I submitted my first manuscript to a publisher when I was 17 and continued to send manuscripts regularly and wasn’t published till my mid-thirties. Half a lifetime of rejection makes you resilient and a better author.

However, I still think that some of those early works are really good and with the right timing would have made great published works. Timing is always out of your control. The greatest manuscript on the same topic or in the same style as a book a publisher just signed isn’t going to be signed and sometimes a not so great manuscript is going to hit the right desk on the right day.

How involved have you been in the development of your books? Did you have input into the illustrations? Different illustrators work differently. With my first picture book Nicky Johnston was incredibly generous with her artworks, she shared roughs, asked for input and showed me everything. Most of my input was just WOW! but I was still very involved, I even got to choose the number plate on the blue car.

Aśka on the other hand was completely independent, she tells her own story with the artworks and they work independently and totally harmoniously but I didn’t really see anything until big sections were completed. We did chat a lot back and forth about colour palettes in The Incurable Imagination but in the end you just have to learn to trust the experts in their area.

I have learned that words are my skill and although I have an art degree and am prone to a bit of doodling, I could never be an illustrator.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The last full stop in a piece. Signing a contract or seeing a finished book is great but finishing a piece of work, regardless if anyone else will ever see it, love it or publish it, is the greatest feeling in the world.

—the worst? When you know you have a great idea but you can’t quite get it to work. Or a rejection letter on a script you really like.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I would join writing groups and talk to other writers. When I started my writing, and honestly too much now, I just live in my own bubble and write. I have found writers incredibly generous with their time, knowledge and experiences and always willing to share. I wish I had learnt this earlier.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Do it. I always thought it was an impossible goal, even now I pinch myself just to make sure. The more you write the better you get. Don’t write to be published, write to be a writer and to bring your stories to life, the rest will happen eventually if you don’t stop.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? “You really have a talent, you know if you get good enough you can pay someone to fix your spelling.”

How important is social media to you as an author? I only started social media five years ago when my publisher told me I had to get onto Facebook. I use my Facebook page and Instagram account like a scrap book of photos and reviews of my books and am really quite poor at adding rich content to my page.

However, it’s the best way to meet other people like yourself. I have loads of people I only know thorough Social Media, I watch people who I want to be or people who want to be like me. I see ideas for launches or get to experience them. Social Media creates networks of authors and illustrators that was impossible only a short time ago and honestly makes everyone so approachable, I love it.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? No. Never. Only a lack of time in my life to write. In my mind writer’s block only occurs if you are trying to force something. I will always be working on a number of different writing ideas at any one time. If I get a bit stuck for one or feel like it is getting sluggish and forced I will move to something else.

Writer’s block is a thing for people who are not busy enough with the rest of their life. I’ve never sat in front of a page or screen and not known what to write, my life is busy enough that when I have the ideas I try to find the screen or page.

How do you deal with rejection? I don’t think anyone is immune to rejection, nothing hurts more than when you put your heart totally into a script and no one else can see what you can.

Take a day. Eat a block of chocolate. Start the next one.

I am still convinced that one day I will be able to pass all those rejected scripts onto someone who will see what I saw in them but until that day you just keep going. Rejection is the building blocks for success, and rejection is only ever final if you give up.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Imaginative, childish, passionate.

If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? I grew up on English television and I think Ben Elton is the writer I would most like to sit down with. I would want to just sit there and hear him talk Young Ones, Blackadder and novels.

I think the greatest thing I have discovered in the past couple of years is lots of the children’s authors and illustrators who I thought I would never have a chance to meet or spend any time with I have met. I have met so many amazing and generous authors who share their time and stories with such passion.

It really is the most incredible community to belong to.

BOOK BYTE

The Incurable Imagination

Written by Paul Russell, Illustrated by Aśka

Audrey has the worst case of ‘imaginitis’ her teachers have ever seen! While other children paint their families, Audrey paints the ogre who lives under her bed drinking tea. Instead of singing about a black sheep, she writes her own song about a desk with legs that runs away. Her alphabet turns into soup. It’s clear that her ‘imaginitis’ is incurable. What’s worse, her condition is contagious and soon the other kids in her class start showing symptoms of an equally incurable imagination! As ‘imaginitis’ spreads, the teachers are horrified and the parents begin to protest too. But perhaps imagination isn’t such a bad disease after all? It might even be useful if it makes learning more fun.

Buy the book:

https://ekbooks.org/product/the-incurable-imagination/

 

 

Meet the Author: Sallie Muirden

Sally’s top tip for aspiring authors: If you haven’t already, do a creative writing course at a reputable institution. It isn’t just what you learn from a writing teacher. You will receive feedback from your peers in the workshopping setting and you will make writing buddies that will support you on your journey.

 

 

Sallie Muirden is a writer who lives in Melbourne. Her first novel, Revelations of a Spanish Infanta, won the 1996 HarperCollins Fiction Prize. Her second novel, We Too Shall Be Mothers, was published in 2001. Her collection of poetry, The Fable of Arachne, was published in 2009. Her third novel, A Woman of Seville, was published in 2009. And her new novel Wedding Puzzle is published this month. She has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Melbourne and she taught creative writing for a long time. She has also worked for many years as a teacher of English language to migrants. She grew up in East Malvern and South Yarra but she has lived in the suburb of Northcote for more than 28 years. She loves surf beaches, zumba, swimming, reading, meditation, cats and watching Australian rules footy.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? When I started writing at 19 and 20 it was to record my thoughts and understand my feelings in a diary. Nowadays writing is a habit and I almost exclusively write for pleasure and to relieve tension. I always feel much better after a good writing session. It is a mental exercise in make-believe, but it is better than daydreaming because you make an art object with your thoughts.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I would probably be teaching English to migrants, as this has been my main professional occupation over recent years.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? In the early days it was finding my own voice and writing fiction that didn’t sound like Virginia Woolf. With my last three novels it has been the painful realisation that it is going to take many drafts before a manuscript wins the admiration of publishers.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? I have been involved all the way with Transit Lounge, since I first signed the contract. I have been allowed to keep the novel I wanted. With the cover a designer created a number of possibilities and fortunately the publisher and I both liked the same cover the most.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The best aspect is when I feel I am breaking new ground in early drafts. Redrafting is also deeply satisfying when I see my novel becoming a cohesive whole.

—the worst? The humiliation of a nasty personal review in a major newspaper can ruin your fragile confidence and stop you taking creative risks.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I would spend more time writing and less time teaching and not worry about money as much because in the end the writing is invaluable and I can live on a small income and still be okay.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Don’t listen to the stories of authors who write a novel in six months. It can work for some but for most writers it is a long and painstaking endeavour. Taking time can only improve your novel and bring it closer to perfection and/or publication.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Listen to your editors.

How important is social media to you as an author? It’s absolutely crucial to boost interest and tell people about your work. However, I really admire writers who can get along without it.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I’d call it ‘writer’s time out’ rather than ‘writer’s block’. I have gone for long periods when I’m not writing because I am prioritising other things such as employment. I end the ‘writer’s time out’ by quitting work and getting up very early and sitting at my desk. When I have the house to myself and my mind is brimming with energy the writing starts to flow again.

How do you deal with rejection? I just remind myself how many attempts it took J K Rowling to get published the first time with Harry Potter.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Musical, intelligent, nostalgic.

If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? I’d like to spend time with Margaret Drabble because I met her at a book launch once and she seemed a lovely person. I’d like her to tell me how she came to write her first three amazing novels. I’d like the honest truth about her own life at that time.

BOOK BYTE

Wedding Puzzle

Sallie Muirden

 

 

On the morning of her wedding, 24-year-old Beth Shaw drives
down the peninsula to the Portsea Hotel. She is uneasy and
confused because she has just learnt something devastating about
her fiancé, Jordan, that completely changes her view of him.
As Beth’s old schoolmates and her relatives arrive for the big day
at the bayside idyll, Beth contemplates her childhood in suburbia.
She worshipped the school relay runners, one of whom was Jordan’s
high school sweetheart. Painful memories of earlier disloyalties
and betrayals resurface. Her dreams and wedding threaten to spin
out of control. Will the truth ever be known? And must she make a
fateful decision about more than just her wedding arrangements?
Award-winning author Sallie Muirden deftly evokes the
contradictions of human behaviour, and growing up in the ’70s
and ’80s. With its Austenesque feel, Wedding Puzzle is an astute,
entertaining, and often tense comedy of manners, that considers
our choice of partner and the decision to marry as the key
moment in our lives.

The book is available here.

 

 

Meet the Author: Amra Pajalić

Read, read, read. Write, write, write. Submit, submit, submit. Repeat. -Amra Pajalić

Amra Pajalić is an award-winning author, an editor and teacher. Her memoir Things Nobody Knows But Me will be published by Transit Lounge in May . Memoir extracts have been published in Meet Me at the Intersection (Fremantle Press, 2018) and Rebellious Daughters (Venture Press, 2016). Her debut novel The Good Daughter (Text Publishing, 2009) won the 2009 Melbourne Prize for Literature’s Civic Choice Award and she is co-editor of the anthology Growing up Muslim in Australia (Allen and Unwin, 2019) that was shortlisted for the 2015 Children’s Book Council awards. She works as a high school teacher and is completing a PhD in Creative Writing at La Trobe University. To find out more about Amra, visit her website at www.amrapajalic.com

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I write because writing is a compulsion. When I am writing the birds are singing, the days are bright, I feel light and floaty. When I’m not writing life is grey and so am I. It is my outlet and my saviour. I always feel like I’ve got my characters with me, keeping me company and I’m never alone or lonely.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I am a high school teacher by day and write at 6 am and on school holidays, so if I wasn’t a writer I’d be doing exactly the same thing and loving it. I’m very lucky that I love my day job and working with young people.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? The fact that I felt like there weren’t any books that represented my background and story made me feel inadequate. I didn’t think anyone would be interested in reading a book about a girl from the Western suburbs of Melbourne, about being Bosnian and from a Muslim background, and about having a mother who suffered from Bi Polar.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? I have been so happy with the development of the book and the covers that were proposed. There wasn’t really any cover I didn’t like. In fact I liked too many of them and struggled to decide. In the end I used my students as my market research team and showed them the covers and asked them which one I should go with. They picked the one that I had initially thought was the one, then I got confused by asking too many people. So in the end I have my students to thank, and of course the amazing cover designer at Transit Lounge.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? When the words flow and I feel like my characters and world are coming to life.

—the worst? All the time spent throwing words down like stones on a road until the flow starts.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I wouldn’t have spent years attempting to work on a sequel to my debut novel, as opposed to forging a new path and trusting that I had new stories and characters to write about.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Write what your heart feels, not what you think will lead to commercial success. You can’t control what will happen once or if your book is published. All you can do is focus on writing the story that means the most to you so you don’t regret the time you spent writing.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? First comes the draft, then comes the craft. Which basically equates to get something down so you can polish it into something readable.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Read, read, read. Write, write, write. Submit, submit, submit. Repeat.

How important is social media to you as an author? This is a really interesting question. We spend so much time on social media and so it feels important, and I know that I have bought and read a lot of books because of social media, but then I also sometimes wonder if it IS a good use of my time, and whether time spent equates to books sold. That’s why I only post on social media things that I feel I want to share. I don’t want to think about it as curating myself or selling myself.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? Usually writer’s block for me is fatigue and an inability to create. I don’t usually have any time when I don’t have ideas – because I work full time my struggle is to find time to write so ideas are always percolating. When I’m feeling fatigued and spent I take a time out and read books back to back. This gets me back to why I write in the first place – my love of stories and the escapism and joy they bring.

How do you deal with rejection? With difficulty. It is very hard to be graceful in the face of rejection – which is why it’s important to avoid social media at these times. I usually have to retreat from life, figuratively lick my wounds, get my gumption back and submit again. The most important thing about rejection is being able to rebound back. My memoir was rejected by five publishers. I took a few months off, revised it again, conducted research about where to submit and submitted to another five publishers. I received immediate interest from the next five, and as soon as I got an offer I withdrew from the rest. I call this the scatter-gun approach. You keep shooting until it hits a target.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Raw, gritty, confessional.

If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? I would love to meet Sylvia Plath. She is a poet and the author of The Bell Jar, one of the books I read as a young teenager that resonated so much with me as it was inspired by her own bouts of clinical depression until her suicide at age 30. I would like to ask her about which events in the book were autobiographical.

BOOK BYTE

Things Nobody Knows But Me

Amra Pajalić

 

 

When she is four years old Amra Pajalić realises that her mother is different. Fatima is loving but sometimes hears strange voices that tell her to do bizarre things. She is frequently sent to hospital and Amra and her brother are passed around to family friends and foster homes, and for a time live with their grandparents in Bosnia.

At 16 Amra ends up in the school counsellor’s office for wagging school. She finally learns the name for the malady that has dogged her mother and affected her own life: bipolar disorder. Amra becomes her mother’s confidante and learns the extraordinary story of her life: when she was 15 years old Fatima visited family friends only to find herself in an arranged marriage. At 16 she was a migrant, a mother, and mental patient.

Surprisingly funny, Things Nobody Knows But Me is a tender portrait of family and migration, beautifully told. It captures a wonderful sense of bi-cultural place and life as it weaves between St Albans in suburban Australia and Bosanska Gradiška in Bosnia. Ultimately it is the heartrending story of a mother and daughter bond fractured and forged by illness and experience. Fatima emerges as a remarkable but wounded woman who learns that her daughter really loves her.

 ‘Brave, compassionate, searingly honest and funny, this is a memoir in a voice like no other. Amra Pajalić’s love letter to her mother is a book that grabs at your heart and doesn’t let go until the final  page.’  ALICE PUNG

Buy links:

Amazon Paperback

Amazon preloaded digital audio player

Readings books

 

 

 

Meet the Author: Melissa Ferguson

Melissa Ferguson is a cancer-fighting scientist who loves to explore scientific possibilities through fiction. She lives in Geelong with her husband, two children and two guinea pigs. Her short fiction has appeared in Island Magazine, Luna Station Quarterly and Postscripts to Darkness. Her debut novel The Shining Wall is available now. You can connect with her on Twitter @melissajferg or at her website melissajaneferguson.com

Melissa’s top tip for authors: Finish things and submit them.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? Writing is a creative outlet for me. I used to love writing when I was a child, but then I gave up for many years as I pursued an education and a career as a scientist. My husband is a musician and a visual artist and I was always jealous of his creative pursuits. When I was in my early 30s I’d had my first child and some health problems that made me reassess my priorities. I took the opportunity to do something I had always wanted to do. I completed a short evening course in creative writing. At first my writing was mostly memoir and realism and was a therapeutic exercise that helped me work through the events of a difficult couple of years. Then one day I’d had enough of that and started writing fantasy and science fiction and began having a lot more fun.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I began a Masters in Human Nutrition a few years ago, but it cut into my writing time too much and I exited with a certificate. If I wasn’t writing I would probably be trying to make a go of a career in nutrition.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? There’s a lot of luck involved with getting published. The industry is so subjective. I think you just need to keep honing your craft and putting yourself out there until your work gets in the hands of the right person.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? Josh at Design by Committee came up with the cover for The Shining Wall. It was the first one the publisher showed me and I found it immediately visually stunning, but I wasn’t sure it fit the themes of the story completely. After a couple of tweaks I was more satisfied with the cover and we went with it.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The best aspect of my writing life is when someone genuinely enjoys a story I’ve written. You can’t beat that feeling.

—the worst? The sore neck and shoulders from being hunched over a keyboard so often.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I would have started earlier and not waited until I was in my thirties to take up writing again.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? To go with my instincts when something doesn’t feel right.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? To finish things and submit them.

How important is social media to you as an author? Social media has been great for me for networking with other authors and publishing professionals and expanding my writing community. I can be quite shy in real life situations, so I get a lot more value out of my interactions in cyberspace.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? For me writer’s block often means that there’s a problem with my story that I need to think about for a while. While I’m waiting for the breakthrough (which often arrives while I’m in the shower) I work on other writing related tasks, such as proofreading, researching, or critiquing for other people.

How do you deal with rejection? A few mumbled swears and then I consider any feedback (if I’m lucky enough to have been given any) and decide if I need to do some rewriting or simply keep submitting.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Someone else once used these words to describe my writing and I quite liked them: A WILD RIDE

If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? I’d would have loved to have met Octavia Butler and told her how much her work has influenced me.

BOOK BYTE

The Shining Wall

Melissa Ferguson

In a ruined world, where wealthy humans push health and longevity to extremes and surround themselves with a shining metal wall, privilege and security is predicated on the services of cloned Neandertals, and the exploitation of women in the shanty towns and wastelands beyond the fortress city.

This is the frightening yet moving story of orphaned Alida and her younger sister Graycie, and their struggle for survival in the Demi-Settlements outside the wall. When the sisters are forced to enter the City by very different means they risk being separated forever.

Cloned Neandertal officer, Shuqba is exiled to a security outpost in the Demi-Settlements when she fails to adhere to the impossible standards set for her species within the City. Will she offer a lifeline to Alida or betray her?

The Shining Wall is at once a frightening parable of our unjust world of haves and have nots, a richly imagined yet thrilling story of technological control and the fight for survival, and a paean to female friendship and power.

It is available from https://transitlounge.com.au/shop/the-shining-wall/

Meet the Author: P.L. Harris

Peta’s top tip for aspiring authors: Seek knowledge from those that have been in your shoes. Ask those in your genre what works. Do courses and attend conferences if you know the content is going to help you as a writer. Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you can and know that everyone on this journey makes mistakes. The questions you have to ask yourself are – What did I learn from my mistake and how can I apply it in the future?

P.L. Harris writes contemporary romance, romantic suspense and young adult with a twist of mystery and intrigue. Her books are rich in storyline and location with characters that stay with you long after you turn the last page. She is a proud member of Romance Writers of Australia and America, Peter Cowan Writers Centre, Making Magic Happen Academy and has a Certificate in Romance Writing. P.L has published stories with Serenity Press, Blue Swan Publishing, Evernight Publishing and now publishes the majority of her books with Gumnut Press.

 

P.L. Harris is an award winning author. Hidden Secrets was a finalist in the Oklahoma Romance Writers of America’s 2017 IDA International Digital Awards, young adult category. Callie’s Dilemma, also a finalist in the Virginia Romance Writers of America’s 2017 Fools of Love Contest, short contemporary romance short category. Her upcoming romantic suspense new release, In His Protection was a finalist in the Romance Writers of Australia Emerald Pro Award. (Due to receiving a publishing contract from Gumnut Press it had to be withdrawn from the contest).

She lives in the northern suburbs of Perth, Western Australia, with her Bichon Frise, Bella. You can visit P.L. Harris at her website: www.plharris.com.au or follow her writing journey on Facebook:

P.L. Harris author Page: https://www.facebook.com/plharrisauthor

P.L. Harris Readers Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/217817788798223

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I loved to make up stories in my younger days. My imagination would always be racing ahead of me. I loved being in a world of make-believe, maybe that’s why I went into the theatre and became a director and drama teacher. A few years ago, I took some time out for me and I started reading again and I realised I could forget the worries of the world for that moment while I was immersed in the story. I found Maya Banks and I was hooked on her books.

I realised I wanted to write stories and this was something I could do for me, something that made me happy. Over the past few years writing became an outlet where I could escape reality, and because I write fiction, it allowed me to put a little of myself, my life experience into my stories. I can create a world away from reality where I can go and lose myself in my storyline, my characters and my locations. A world where I have no worries except where to put a comma and if I have used the correct tense.

What inspires you? Oh my, that is a loaded question. I guess it depends what genre I am writing. My contemporary romance are inspired by my life and events that I have experienced and my passions, like the theatre. Whereas my cozy mysteries are inspired by the amazing covers by Mariah Sinclair. I fell in love with the covers, but had never heard of the cozy mystery genre. However, I was an avid Murder, She Wrote fan and my passion for writing cozies took off from there. My romantic suspense comes from my interest in the danger and high stakes. Watching characters fall in love on the page is wonderful, but when the stakes are raised and life is in danger the lengths they will go to for their soul mate always gives me a thrill to write.

How do you spend your non-writing time? I work full-time teaching Drama and also the Head of Dance and Drama at an Anglican Community School which, although I love it, can often be very time consuming. I also like to spend time with my family and friends.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? My self-doubt. It has been a long journey to a place now where I feel comfortable calling myself a published author. Fear of rejection is still something that will always be in the back of my mind, but I learnt a saying a while back which I try and keep in mind – If it is to be, it’s up to me.

How involved are you in the development of your books? I see the development of my books as a process from the inception of the idea to the final product. I am what the publishing world calls a ‘plotter’. If I can, I love to plan every detail out so I know where the plot and characters are heading. It doesn’t always work, but I find it gets me to the end destination, eventually. Being hybrid published means when I’m self-publishing it falls to me to do every aspect of the book from writing to editing to cover design and it’s a thrill to see it all come together in the end.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Apart from holding the physical book in my hot hands at the end of the process it’s hearing responses from my readers and what they have to say about my books. When you can transport someone into another world for a moment, it’s a wonderful feeling. When I get a review that says that they struggled to read the words through their tears because the storyline pulled at their heartstrings, it makes my day.

—the worst? Self-doubt. The self-doubt monster always likes to keep me on my toes. Lack of time to write and promote.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I would definitely have learnt more about the self-promotion, social media side of the industry right from the start and started that much, much earlier. Follow the experts. If they have tried something and it didn’t work, think carefully if you are going to follow in their footsteps. I would have created another pen name for my different genres, which I have now done, but a year after the first cozy publication. Look out for Polly Holmes in the cozy mystery genre.

 What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? A heads up into the world of social media and self-promotion and how to go about it. Creating an author platform and how you go about this would really have helped me a little more in the beginning.

What do you hope readers will take away from your stories? I would like my readers to follow and immerse themselves in my characters’ lives and feel that they are a part of their world. Love them, cry for them, and dislike them where necessary. But also feel as if they have experienced something wonderful through the characters’ journey.

Is there any area of writing that you find especially challenging? For me, while I love writing I still find it challenging to grasp the editorial nuances needed for great editing. I can get my words down on paper, but are they correct….In the right order….Abiding by the rules of the genre….Maybe. That’s when you have to outsource and surround yourself with the best editorial team possible.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Never give up no matter how much you feel like it. The bad time will pass and if you persist, when the time is right, all the pieces will fall into place.

How important is social media to you as an author? Extremely. It’s the way of the future, but also you need to know the right social media outlets to use that will bring the best rewards. Having an author page or twitter account is the minimum I would say in order to promote your brand. Publishers want to know what you, as the author are doing or going to do to promote yourself.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? Yes, especially when I am working on my cozy mysteries and I have to work on the murder, red-herrings and plot line. I try and step back for a while and maybe move on to something else. I often have a few select people who I can bounce ideas off and toss around plot lines. Usually this works for me and then I can get a rough outline down on paper. I do sometimes talk out loud to myself hoping I may be able to answer my own questions.

How do you deal with rejection? Not very well I’m afraid and I have been known to shed a tear or two. But I also remember someone once saying at one of the conventions I attended, “It’s only one person’s opinion at that specific time.” It’s a part of the industry and there is no way to avoid it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not emotionally crushing at the same time. I guess I try and learn from it so that I can make my stories better in the long run.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Engaging….thought-provoking….emotional

You’ve recently set up a small independent press. How did this come about and what is your dream for Gumnut Press? The main instigator of Gumnut Press was having my publisher, Karen McDermott believe in me and tell me that if she could do it, then so can I. While I had no idea that my writing path would lead me down the publishing track, I am excited to now be heading that way. You can never get tired of the feeling you get when you see your words in print and I want this for other people, so Gumnut Press was born. There is a lack of independent publishers in the northern suburbs of Perth and I want to fill that void with Gumnut Press. My dream is to make it an international company that houses many different authors of various genres, but all with a unique voice that must be heard.

How does your experience as an author influence you as a publisher? It certainly tells me what genres I like to read and therefore will publish. Being a writer also helps me identify a good piece of work or writer’s voice. Having a great editor has taught me so much since I started and therefore able to help me spot that writer’s voice which stands out from the crowd.

If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? USA Best-selling author, Maya Banks.  It was her books that ignited my passion for romance and writing. She writes so many different genres and heat levels that it blows my mind that she can hit each one with precision. I would love her to tell me what her secret ingredients are for my genres. Does she have a checklist of what she includes in each book? What are her writing techniques and how can I better write for my target market?

BOOK BYTE

In His Protection

P.L Harris

Every picture tells a story, but this family secret could be deadly. 

For Melody Maddison, life hasn’t been the same since her mother’s passing. When she discovers a photo of her mother and a mysterious child, she’ll stop at nothing to find the truth, even if the search makes her question everything she’s ever known about the beloved woman.

Noah St. Reeve has a soft spot for women in trouble. When he rescues Melody from an attempt on her life, he can’t turn his back on the fierce and beautiful woman in front of him. Torn between duty and passion, it will be up to Noah to keep his charge safe from harm, no matter the cost.

Melody’s quest for answers leads her from one dangerous path to the next. When the first shot is fired, the handsome and steady Noah is there to keep her safe. She knows she should back down, but Melody owes it to her mother to get to the bottom of a history that will rock her family forever. Except, the photo isn’t only a link to her mother’s past. It’s proof of a dangerous secret—a secret that someone is willing to kill to keep.

Buy links

https://www.gumnutpress.com/product-page/in-his-protection

https://www.amazon.com.au/His-Protection-Burrum-Ridge-Book-ebook/dp/B07MTQRPN7

https://www.amazon.com/His-Protection-Burrum-Ridge-Book-ebook/dp/B07MTQRPN7

Meet the Author: Kelly Van Nelson

Kelly’s top tip for writers: Dig deep and leverage willpower. It’s the ultimate superpower to ensure you never give up.

Kelly Van Nelson is a fiction author who lived in the UK and South Africa before immigrating to Australia. She has had multiple poetry and short stories featured in publications in the UK, USA, and Australia (Serenity Press, Short Story Society, United Press, Between These Shores Books, Fiction War Magazine, Wolvesburrow Productions, KSP Writefree Women’s Writing Group). She is represented by Clive Newman at The Newman Agency.

Graffiti Lane is her powerful debut poetry collection. As well as success as a poet, Kelly has also received multiple accolades for her manuscript, The Pinstripe Prisoner, which placed third in the Yeovil Literary Prize, shortlisted in the Wales PENfro first chapter competition, and longlisted in the Exeter Novel Prize. In December 2018 she was awarded a First Edition Fellowship through Katharine Susannah Pritchard Writers’ Centre. The fellowship is part of an emerging writer pilot program, funded by the Western Australian Department of Local Government, Sports and Cultural Industries and Lotterywest.

Kelly is also the mum of two children, wife of her soulmate of more than two decades and the Managing Director on the executive board of a global staffing organisation. In short, she is a juggler.

For more information about Kelly visit her website: www.kellyvannelson.com

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I was born in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the North East of England (I’m a Geordie) and lived in a council estate in an inner-city concrete jungle. I didn’t have a great relationship with my mother and my father passed away in his forties. It was pretty bleak. My outlet was reading. I read endlessly under the duvet with a torch until the early hours. Enid Blyton and everything else I could get my hands on. At a very young age, I knew I wanted to be a writer – I loved books and the escape that they brought from reality.

Now, in my adult years, I find writing the ultimate stress buster. I mostly write late at night, just before I go to bed. It helps me unwind from whatever crazy day I’ve had.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Hmm, I have a full-time day job already; one that I love. I’m the Managing Director for a global organisation, helping people find employment every day and shaping the future of work. If I didn’t write, I would still be working full-time, but I’d probably be going to bed a bit earlier!

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? There were so many stumbles along the way. Not having a good writers’ support network early in the journey would be one of the biggest setbacks. I used to overwrite a lot, had no formal writing training, and didn’t have a great grasp of the intense editing process that is required to rewrite, prune, polish … then do it all again. It was only when I moved to Australia that I found an amazing writing community who helped me develop into a writer strong enough in my craft to make it into print.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? Ahhhh, the cover. I had an enormous amount of input on that particular aspect of the book. I had a vision in my mind of what the cover would look like, then embarked on a photo shoot in Melbourne’s Hosier Lane to get the perfect shot. Almost a thousand photographs of street art were taken to get the frame that is now the cover of Graffiti Lane. The shot was chosen by my incredibly talented cover designer @thomaspaulartistry. Tom layered the photo with incredible graphics and captured the essence of my gritty author brand and the context of the book beautifully. It looks nothing like what I originally envisaged. It’s way better!

The rest of the book development, manuscript content aside, was managed by my amazing publisher, Karen Mc Dermott, although she gave me wonderful creative liberty with many decisions along the way.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Touching readers emotionally with something I created is an amazing feeling. If just one reader gets something positive out of words I have written, magic has been realised.

—the worst? My hands regularly ache. I use the laptop all day long for work and continue into the wee hours typing at fast speed. It’s bliss rubbing hand cream into them to try and ease the joints.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Join a writers’ group immediately. I found mine at Katharine Susannah Pritchard Writers’ Centre (KSP) in Perth only a year ago and it changed my world. Hanging out with like-minded writers is the best for learning all kinds of new tricks of the trade.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Your time will come, but only when you are ready. Every rejection in between is a stepping stone to learn and refine your skills.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Don’t ever submit your work without editing it end-to-end at least six times. I never break this rule now, even for a tiny Haiku poem, and my submission success rate has shot through the roof as a result.

How important is social media to you as an author? Social media is a huge part of my writing world. I use four platforms; Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram, for varied content and to reach different audiences. I met many fellow authors, publishers, and other industry contacts through social networking and the time I spend online pays off ten-fold. Graffiti Lane shot to #1 on Amazon Hot New Releases and #2 Poetry Bestsellers on pre-sales alone, simply from reaching out to contacts online about my book launch. I’m also fairly disciplined about how long I spend reviewing content of friends and posting rather than just idly browsing random content.

There is a downside though. My social media platform has evolved into almost 100,000 connections and I dread just one person slamming me – I need to develop a much thicker skin so anything like this doesn’t bother me.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? Not really. If I sit down to write, I write. It’s often not what I intended to write during the session, but something always pops out. It’s common for me to sit down to work on a novel and churn out a couple of poems or a short story instead. I cut myself a break. As long as I’m getting words out of my head and down on a page, I figure it’s okay. The pressure is not so intense on myself as a result.

How do you deal with rejection? I used to get hung up on it, reading the piece again, unpicking the rejection note, then wallowing in self-doubt. Now I keep a spreadsheet of all submissions, track long lists, short lists, successes and failures. The percentage of accepted pieces has been rising month on month so this trend line fights off any negative thinking. When it’s a particularly disappointing rejection (I recently had my novel at final stages with the director of a major publishing house and it fell over), I give myself 24 hours’ reprieve before getting back on the horse and galloping to work again.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Gritty, urban, confronting.

If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? Wow. This is the toughest question. There are so many authors I idolise, but one in particular made an impact on my life way back. Years ago, I sat next to Dame Stella Rimington, author and former director of MI5, at dinner. At the time I was struggling with working full time and raising two young children, and was planning a move from Scotland to South Africa. She spoke of how she managed to juggle her career and family life, even talking about an incident where she was trying to get an informer out of Britain while her daughter was sick in hospital. It put my whole world into perspective. I have a signed copy of her book, Open Secrets, with the coolest Bond quote inside. In that one dinner, I learned that a strong woman can succeed through hard work and determination, and mums can have amazing careers too. I would love another hour with her.

BOOK BYTE

Graffiti Lane looks at life through an unfiltered lens.

With unflinching honesty, Kelly Van Nelson offers an intensely personal perspective on the grittiness of urban living in an eclectic mix of traditional, shadow and free-form poetry. She fearlessly tackles issues of intimidation and discrimination, including playground and corporate bullying, domestic violence, marginalisation, gender inequity, mental health and suicide.

Yet while the writing is raw and the darker side of human nature is being exposed, there is an underlying sense of hope. The underdog is beaten down but not defeated and has the resilience to bounce back and rise again.

Graffiti Lane is a powerful debut collection of poetry that will stir the spirit and speak to the heart.

The book is available from the publisher here.

Amazon Australia Book Sales: https://www.amazon.com.au/Graffitti-Lane-Kelly-Van-Nelson-ebook/dp/B07N33ZB21/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet the Author: Sonia Bellhouse

Sonia’s top tip for aspiring authors: Think about what excites you, what inspires you. Write about that. Even if it’s not in now, you never know what will become the next trend.

Sonia Bellhouse grew up in England, but she now makes Australia her home. Inspired by Enid Blyton’s comment, ‘One day you might write a book,’ writing is Sonia’s lifelong passion. She has published in magazines both in Australia and the UK and was awarded two major short fiction awards.

Sonia completed a university English degree as a mature student. She is a member of Romance Writers of Australia. Her journey to publication is included in the anthology Writing the Dream. She also contributed to the anthology Passages.  A longtime member of Armadale Writers’ Group she is their speaker coordinator. Her book Fire & Ice combines her interests in ice dancing, Vikings, love that spans time and Bergen, Norway, a place that she loved when she visited. When not writing Sonia can be found ignoring the ironing in favour of playing with her cats. She reads six to eight books a month and reviews them on her blog https://soniabellhouse.blog.

Visit Sonia on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/soniabellhouse.author/

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I’ve always scribbled since I was very young, writing and illustrating stories. It is something that won’t go away. I don’t want it to. Writing is a part of my identity. I write to clear my head, to clarify or explore my thoughts.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? A lot more reading!

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Procrastination and self-doubt.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? Far more involved than most first time authors can expect to be. I have been exceptionally fortunate a writer friend, who was procrastinating on her own writing , sent me six sample covers.  They were all good, but one really spoke to me and I sent to the publishers as an example. After seeking the relevant permission they decided to use it.

The editor was one I had worked with before , so I felt very confident in taking her  advice, which was comprehensive.  There were 13 pages of notes, comments on the manuscript  itself and graphs showing character arcs and plot tension points.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The ability to create what you want, limited only by your own imagination. A close second is no workday commute .

—the worst? The usual – the insecurity and self-doubt. The critical voice in  your head. The feeling that you should write more, write faster, be more like another author.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Start earlier, be brave, send more work out, learn from rejections. Analyse what works, what doesn’t and remember you have a unique writing voice.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? That the work hasn’t ended when you have written ‘The End’. in fact, it’s just the beginning of a much larger process.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Believe in your dreams you were given them for a reason.

How important is social media to you as an author? I’ll let you know! I enjoy Facebook and  ‘meeting’ authors that I admire. Now I have a Sonia Bellhouse Author page myself.

I also have a blog  https://soniabellhouse.blog  where I post about the 6-8 books I have read each month. It also includes aspects of writing and whatever else is on my mind And I dabble in Pinterest – I created a board for  ‘The Book I Am Writing’

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? Luckily, I usually have two or three projects on the go at the same time , so if one stalls, I simply switch to another project.

How do you deal with rejection? It hurts!  I allow myself to experience it to rage , and  to feel they are unjustified. Then when  I have calmed down, I assess whether they have a valid point. Did I submit something unsuitable, or to the wrong place? If that’s’ the case, lesson learnt; if not then maybe they had just commissioned something similar.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? From my heart.

If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? I think this is the toughest question. There are so many wonderful authors I admire and for different reasons. While I have listened to writers at various events and conferences, a one-on-one would give personalised advice.

After much deliberation I choose Joanne Harris. I loved  her series with Vianne Rocher. It started with Chocolat,  continued in The Lollipop Shoes and Peaches for Monsieur Le Cure. The fourth in the series is due for release in April, that is seven years after the last book. What prompted her to revisit it? How difficult was it to return to those characters?  I enjoy how the series combines a fey quality of magic  with the practicalities of everyday life and well-drawn characters. Each book is different but continues the series.

I’d like to learn how extensively she planned it,  how difficult it was to get back into the mindset of the characters and whether she would do anything differently. Additionally, she has written other genres, they have a different tone and I admire her versatility.  There are even two cook books, some books spanning her French heritage Others on runes and fairy-tales. And we could always talk about our childhoods when we both lived behind a sweet shop.

Fire and Ice

Sonia Bellhouse

Olympic ice dancer Blaise Daniels’ partner has just called it quits – leaving her with no chance of competing at the Winter Olympics. Determined not to give up on her dream, Blaise travels to Norway to meet legendary skater Kristoffer Erikson. After a bumpy start, they connect both on and off the ice. Their partnership seems assured, but why do they both start having dreams of a mysterious Viking past? Can an ancient love be rekindled or will an old tragedy complicate their present?

The book is available from Daisy Lane Publishing, Book Depository and leading online retailers.